COLUMBUS, Ohio — Experience Columbus, the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, is thrilled to announce two Columbus chefs have been selected by the James Beard Foundation® as semifinalists in its 2024 Restaurant and Chef Awards. The awards are among the nation’s most prestigious culinary honors, reinforcing the city’s standing as a culinary destination on the rise.  

BJ Lieberman, chef/owner of HiraethChapman’s Eat Market and Ginger Rabbit, and Avishar Barua, chef/owner of Agni and Joya’s, were named semifinalists in the Best Chef: Great Lakes category, representing the top talent in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. 

“I am thrilled and humbled to be on the semifinalists list again,” said Lieberman, who was also named a 2023 semifinalist in the same category. “Avishar one hundred percent deserves to be on the list too, and I couldn’t be prouder or more excited anytime I am mentioned in the same sentence as him."

Barua shared BJ’s excitement about the nomination saying, “We are equal parts humbled, totally surprised and grateful to get nominated for the James Beard Foundation Awards, amongst other culinary legends that we look up to like BJ. The Seriously Fun team continues to blow us and the city of Columbus away with their relentless hard work, limitless empathy and amazing ability to shape the future of hospitality! We promise to continue to improve and double down on our commitment to make everyone's day just a bit better every day and contribute to the city that we love, and we are proud to call home!”

The Best Chef list is a prestigious honor recognizing chefs who set high standards in their culinary skills and leadership abilities and who are making efforts to help create a sustainable work culture in their respective regions, while contributing positively to their broader community. In the fall of 2023, Experience Columbus led a citywide effort to encourage the public to nominate the talented chefs and restaurants in Ohio’s capital for 2024 awards.  

“Columbus has long been a food city with amazing restaurants and chefs, and in the past few years Avishar and BJ have brought even more attention to our culinary scene through their new restaurants, creative menus and special events where they bring in guest chefs from around the country,” said Sarah Townes, Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer for Experience Columbus. “They exemplify the passion, collaboration and hospitality that our city is known for, and we’re so happy for them. This recognition shines a spotlight on Columbus, and we hope it will bring more visitors here to experience our food scene.”  

The James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards celebrate excellence across a range of experiences, from fine-dining establishments to casual gems, and emerging talents to established luminaries. Nominees will be announced on April 3 and winners will be celebrated on June 10 in Chicago. 

Columbus’ reputation as a must-visit culinary destination continues to grow as national outlets recognize the city’s restaurants and chefs. Essence recently named Columbus one of the Best Destinations for Culinary Travel in 2024, and outlets like Forbes, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit and USA Today 10Best have praised the city’s local restaurants, bagels, food halls and more.

About Columbus, Ohio 
Columbus is a city unlike any other. Vibrant and alive, Ohio’s capital is known for its open attitude, smart style and entrepreneurial spirit. Columbus' blend of neighborhoods, dynamic nightlife, noteworthy music scene, arts and culinary experiences, events, attractions and accommodations are all made unforgettable by the diversity of its outgoing locals who eagerly await and warmly welcome visitors. Columbus is proud to have hosted the 2023 U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in June and PCMA Convening Leaders 2023, which brought together the world's business events professionals in January. Free travel guides, maps, online booking and detailed information are available at Visitor information is also available on Instagram: @ExperienceColumbus, Facebook: @ExperienceColumbus, Threads: @ExperienceColumbus and TikTok: @ExperienceColumbus.  


Media Contacts:  
Leah Berger, APR, ECI: | 614-222-6145 
Cameron Tirado, ECI: | 610-389-6833